Peace Brigades International-France has announced the passing of Alain Richard, who died on June 24 in Avignon, France at 96 years of age.
In the book Unarmed Bodyguards, Liam Mahony and Luis Enrique Eguren tell the story of Richard’s involvement in the first PBI team in Guatemala in 1983.
US-based PBI activist Dan Clark called then 58-year-old Alain Richard, a French Franciscan worker-priest in Panama, and soon Richard was part of the three-person PBI team that set up in the home of an exiled Guatemalan professor.
By the end of their first month in Guatemala, the team had worked out a plan that included “serving continually as an international presence”, “direct action with regard to disappearances” and “creative nonviolent action in a crisis period.”
Mahony and Eguren write: “During their first year, PBI team members traveled throughout the highlands, visiting rural farmers, clandestine contacts, and government and military officials, introducing themselves and feeling things out.”
“When necessary, they helped people flee the country.
“In one case, PBI learned of a man who was about to be sentenced to death by Rios Montt’s Special Tribunals. PBI and other groups outside the country put together an overnight campaign, using confidential diplomatic channels of pressure, and they got a stay of sentencing and execution. PBI later helped hustle the man out of the country.”
“By the end of the first year, the team had made many contacts and tested several program ideas, but none of them had developed into a clear mission.”
By 1984, the Mutual Support Group (GAM) of families of disappeared persons had formed and was meeting at the PBI house in Guatemala City.
Mahony and Eguren write: “On Saturday, March 30, 1985, Hector Gomez left a GAM meeting at the PBI house. He was found dead the next day with his hands tied behind his back, no tongue, and signs of beating and burns.”
And Clark has written: “On April 3, PBI’s Alain Richard warned founder and secretary of GAM Maria Rosario Godoy de Cuevas not to leave her home for any reason because she was also in danger of being killed. The next day she was found dead in her car in a ravine with her brother and her two-year-old son, who had been ill. The cause of their deaths was strangulation, and the child’s fingernails had been pulled out.”
Richard notes: “The night before I had to leave [the country to renew my visa], a close diplomatic contact visited me, along with Jean-Marie Simon of Americas Watch, and they told me, ‘Listen, you’ve started to be with these women. That has to continue. How can you make sure you have enough people to do that?’”
Mahony and Eguren highlight: “This was the beginning of PBI ‘escorting’: providing the surviving GAM leadership with around-the-clock unarmed bodyguards.”
PBI-USA joins with PBI-France in mourning the passing of Alain Richard.
For more, please see the PBI-France article: Hommage à Alain Richard.
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